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i e t q u

l i g h t n i n g






n rk


sparkle + blink 38
© 2013 Quiet Lightning ISBN 978-1-300-89141-3 artwork © Sarah Moran excerpt from Thrill-Bent by Jan Richman appears courtesy of Tupelo Press book design by j. brandon loberg set in Absara Promotional rights only. This book, or parts thereof, may not be reproduced in any form without permission from individual authors. The scanning, uploading, and distribution of this book via the internet or any other means without the permission of the author(s) is illegal. Your support is crucial and appreciated.
su bmit @ qui e tli g h tn i n g . o r g

curated by

Evan Karp, Sarah Griffin, Arline Klatte & Beth Lisick
featured artist Sarah


Set 1
Rupa Marya metamorphosis 1 Moneta Goldsmith

The Least Cruel Method for Cooking Crabs 3 The Human Conditioner… 6 11 13 16 19 25 27

Rachel Ann Brickner Floyd Matthew Rodgers Tenotizchlan

Mario de la Vega Katie Wheeler-Dubin

The Acorn Imperfect Atheist The Lion Lube Job Part Two

Set 2
Allison Landa Jan Richman

Bank Fraud for Dummies 35 from thrill-bent 43 47 51

Baruch Porras-Hernandez Keep Water in Jars Matt Pine Charlie Getter Katie Carter

Get This

Untitled (“It Might Rain”) 55 Word Problems: #5 61

e t L ig Qu i

htning is sponsored


Quiet Lightning
A 501(c)3, the primary objective and purpose of Quiet Lightning is to foster a community based on literary expression and to provide an arena for said expression. QL produces a monthly, submission-based reading series on the first Monday of every month, of which these books (sparkle + blink) are verbatim transcripts. Formed as a nonprofit in July 2011, the board of QL is currently: Evan Karp founder + president Chris Cole managing director Josey Lee public relations Charles Kruger secretary Meghan Thornton treasurer Kristen Kramer chair Jacqueline Norheim art director Nicole McFeely outreach Brandon Loberg design Sarah Maria Griffin and Ceri Bevan directors of special operations If you live in the Bay Area and are interested in helping—on any level—please send us a line:

Q ui e t L ight n i n g

tour through town
In 2013, Quiet Lightning is teaming up with a different literary organization each month in order to bring together the many outstanding series and organizations of the Bay Area literary world, and to introduce its various audience members to programming they might like but not yet know about. For these reasons, we will create custom-designed shows that combine the defining features of Quiet Lightning with those of each month’s partner organization. This month’s collaboration with Porch Light is the third show of our Tour; to mash-up literature and storytelling, we selected from our submissions and paired them with stories solicited by Arline Klatte and Beth Lisick.
For details on the Tour T h r ou gh T own visit our website:

- SET 1 -


from the album build by Rupa and the April Fishes

i sit here and wonder what spell i’ve been under as i open my eyes everyone’s disappeared it’s some kind of eerie it’s some kind of strange it’s some kind of silence as things rearrange i’m mystified all that i know all that i know liquified and alone metamorphosis nothing i can do what i thought was the earth was the water and what i thought was water was air as i stood there sinking my lips they were drinking your empty words and i drowned in my thirst

this time your absence is here just like the sky i’m a paper kite that must fly metamorphosis nothing i can do the seed wakes the ground shakes the cells ache the growth makes the heart break the heart breaks the heartbreaks all the things i’ve lost along the way were never meant to stay if i should see you again i don’t know if i will if i should see you again won’t be the same eyes




f o r C o o ki n g C r a b s
What a minimally cruel pursuit: In order to cook live crabs, here’s what you do. Place each crab ever so gingerly in a small to medium sized bucket. Find two giant blocks of ice. Just before turning out the lights in the kitchen, place the blocks of ice inside the bucket that contains the crabs. Cover the bucket with the crabs that contain the blocks of ice,  and cover them completely.  After a few moments of crab confusion, the crabs will believe it is winter and they will start to fall asleep.*  Meanwhile, on the other side of the stove, boil a pot of water. It is important to perform this step solemnly, with caution and out of earshot of your unsuspecting companions. As a rule, crabs have mercifully poor hearing, especially while

The Least Cruel Method


hibernating, but they are highly evolved in matters of spirituality, possibly gnomic, even by crustacean standards. It would be wise to whisper a short prayer before lighting the burner on the oven, just in case. When the water boils, reach gingerly beneath the blocks of melting ice. If necessary, hold a wax candle in your free hand. The use of smart-phones and flashlights is not recommended due to a widespread belief that aquatic species, bottom-dwellers especially, are more sensitive to radioactivity than are humans.  Anyway, wax candles are safer. There are always more of them. When you transport one by one the crabs into your pot of boiling water, do it quickly, without resting too much between crabs. This is for your sake but also so that the crabs don’t have time to warn their friends or say goodbye to their crab relatives, or cry. It is well known that crabmeat is more tender if the crab itself suffers during death but this is a tradeoff you must make for the sake of science. It is crucial for the purposes of this exercise that the window of time between crab convoys be minimal.    I repeat: the candle should under no circumstances burn to its wick before you are finished with this step.  Rinse out bucket for signs of bacteria and other crab offerings, and ever so delicately replace the lid on

top of boiling water. Try not to turn away when the crabs turn white and slack and then, dinner. You will respect yourself more for this once night falls and you unplug your record player for the evening, the coarse sound of the record still spinning and scratching against the record-needle, and all the sherry in the world has not been enough to rinse away the metallic aftertaste of crab and crab tears. Carry a book to the bed-stand, do not wonder too long whether rooms were designed to be this quiet or crabs were meant to make so much noise under blocks of ice, even for that brief moment, with their little slanted eyes half-shut, pretending to be asleep. *These steps may also work with Lobsters, though the pot and the blocks of ice would have to be considerably larger. The author of this experiment has not tried it, fearing it would be too much work, and also harboring a secret fear of Lobsters ever since a childhood trauma the author would rather not talk about that was suffered off the rocky shores of the Penobscot River, at the hands (the mincers?) of a nutcracker.

Mone ta Goldsmi t h


The Human Conditioner:
An Open Letter from Sisyphus to Rumi
Dear Rumi, there is something that happens in the cereal aisle - of every single corner store, after hours - that i am pretty sure you are not aware of. every item on the shelf proves that it is not, nor ever was, not even a little bit Illuminated. not for you, not for anybody else, not really. there is something about spirituality that puts the self on trial. as if the two were incompatible, the self and actual awareness. let me explain something to you Rumi: (and no, no rumi, when I say the word You, i do not mean a thousand universes.) you see, after hours in a duane reade, every item becomes maximally delicious

for   no     one. every cereal wants to climb the mountain of your throat just to prove suicide is the only important question  that should ever ‘be’ on that part of your tongue. and to cascade the way it was meant to: numbed, in shreds, insolvent,  inside your bleeding black and blue gums. every single item ‘risks his/her own authenticity,’ Dasein, despair  or anguish --- which, for many of the more serious thinkers among us, are more or less the same thing -most people don’t know this, but in the cereal aisle, late at night, you can almost see through the window of your nonexistence, just as cocoa puffs another fat one - cocoa is the High chief in the tribe (i do mean high chief, Rumi) fruity loops the side effects, shot-gunning every bit of smoke from Cocoa’s trans-fat fructose-black lips raisin brain becomes jealous, cheerios cheers in ‘bad
Mone ta Goldsmi t h


faith,’ talking about something called self-deception, how every tasty treat is really just an anti-semite, racist, closet misogynist pinko commie, and captain crunches every thing and non-thing, until he questions even the prospect of milk or love, and for like four straight hours becomes preoccupied with whether tony the tiger is or is not, like, a complete corporate figment of his imagination-until opening time. Rumi,  sometimes you need to admit that you are wrong. rumi, there are moments when i would like nothing more than for you to apply a dash of Human Conditioner to my scalp and work it into a lather of something like starkempty calm. when i say ‘my scalp,’ Rumie, i mean torpid mindsucking insomnia, crisis, something like spiritual bankruptcy reaching in the cereal aisle of a duane reade after midnight. When i say stark-empty, i mean for you to hear me twice

when i say lather, i mean lather. i mean go. gently. always. i mean now.

Mone ta Goldsmi t h






Flo yd


Floyd. Oh, Floyd. The first time I saw you I felt like the sun just landed on the moon and I tried to think of every word beginning with F that could describe you: Fancy Floyd, Funny Floyd, Fat Floyd, Fine Floyd, Festive Floyd, Feverish Floyd. Oh, Floyd. I see you now across the street, carrying a gigantic television in your arms—moving into the split-level so close, your wife fretting after you, Floyd! Watch your back, Floyd!—and all I can think is how I’d like to be the thing you choose to fill that space between your wide chest and thick arms. To huddle against you and all your sweet lumpiness, Floyd! To even imagine! You tell her not to worry while I hide behind the curtain as you look across the street into my living room window. You disappear into the moving truck. What are you doing? my wife asks. Nothing, I say looking back at my magazine. When she leaves I pull the curtain back from my chair, still unable to locate you. Floyd, I want to see you grow old as I see myself become more and more unfamiliar. I want to take back every kiss I’ve ever given to a woman and

carefully place each atop the crown of your bald head. I want to have never said I love you to anyone, not even my mother, so I could have saved all that love for you. I want to stick my dick in your mouth and see your wide eyes look up at me like all they’ve ever wanted is to see me cry from so much pleasure, from so much giving, and love. I want you to rub the small of my back as you say Take it, pig and I want you to hold me, sweeping back the loose hairs across my forehead, that suddenly, I realize, are now gray. Oh, Floyd, I want, and want, and want. There’s not enough to quench my wanting. Just a minute ago I was a young man. Now the days are long, the chances less. Your wife rings the bell and introduces herself, and I wonder if it’s just me, or if you are also wanting. So many men have gone by, Floyd, so many men like you while I have been slowly vanishing. You emerge from the truck and call for her, say you have a question. She shakes her head in that marital way, says she has to go, Nice to meet you, see you soon! and I am filled with dread while my cock is hard. She seems nice, my wife says, and I say, Uh huh. Pulling back the curtain, I sit in my chair and watch you as my wife vacuums beneath my feet. I tell her, They better move that truck before we leave for dinner, and she tells me to cut you a break. I watch sweat drip from your face, your belly heaving in and out as you go up and down your front steps, and I think of you twenty years earlier: I say Hello.





T e n o tiz c h l a n

Walking down the streets of Tenotizchlan a cat stops you and purrs you follow it through miniature gardens floating on lily pads by the priests with their painted bodies and beautiful eyes that see into the very room that the Milky Way dances in and she is so beautiful: the Milky Way, as she dances, she makes all the Aztecs blush and sigh in cosmic worship as they watch her dance with her arms outspread swirling like a dervish in the ancient promenades of Samarkand where they build their temples with bits of colored glass to mirror the sky, to capture forever the impression of the sky as it was, filled with shooting stars and spiraling flowers in the long lost human mind, lost because it can no longer be imagined, and then you are taken back and you see the Milky Way dancing and all the other galaxies are enraptured by her as if she was Anastasia dancing for all the powerful men of her time, dancing and dancing and

subduing whole nations with a mere glance of her eyes, and so you are taken back even further and you realize back in Tenochtitlan where poets hang out on hillsides with Silence and listen to the contemplative bliss of the musical spheres popping into arias and Sonatas with all the bravado contained in the mind of Chopin where if you were just to sit back and relax and follow that cat that made you stop with a single purr you’d suddenly enter the ultimate reality as if in a trance you’d see the Milky Way dancing in that galactic ballroom and she’d make you sigh and realize that you are not alone and that you never were and that even in a forgotten place, in a forgotten time, in Tenotizchlan where plague and fire and sword would soon destroy the innocent little brown boys who used to line up and dangle their toes into the waters that supported the floating city that even in Tenotizchlan: a place that no longer exists if you were just to sit back and close your eyes

and use your mind you could open the doors and enter the world of bliss, of joy of unimagined unalterable choruses that sing of an existence that is timeless where blind archers would line up among the clouds and take aim at all the people and fire their heart shafted arrows until each person is pierced through with the germ of love and fall down and close their eyes and smile and are ultimately unafraid of dying.

Mat t h e w Rodge rs


The Acorn
The Old man goes down to the docks to look at the rivulets of waves sighing and breaking as they hit the concrete sides of the walk way promenades. It’s the end of autumn, all the trees have either shed their leaves or have lost their green to turn to gold, and the old man too feels like he is at the end of something, something long and dark and with too few moments of laughter and lightness. The old man sits on a bench overlooking the Hudson river by the docks, rotating in his pocket an acorn he had found at the beginning of the season. Now that everything was gray and shattered this acorn reminded him of the fertile robustness of the years of his youth, smiling and making others blush as he showed his youth to other youths, he likes feeling the acorn in his hand, it’s substance, it’s smoothness, its silent promises of newness, he sighs feeling the weight of time as if it were a debt collector that he could no longer avoid paying. The old man looks out towards the water and sees the New Jersey shoreline,

the statue of liberty vaguely standing in the distance and then at his feet he sees a little squirrel moving closer, slowly and tentatively. The old man smiles, he likes to see anything alive, it makes him feel alive too. The squirrel thinks that the old man may have food for him and the squirrel makes sounds and gestures as if to say, I’m hungry won’t you please feed me? and the old man feeling the acorn in his pocket remembers that he has something to give, something that he has been carrying all season long, and he says, I do have something for you, and with a smile, a smile like a child, he reaches out and hands the squirrel his acorn at the tip of his fingers, and the squirrel takes it and eats it and scurries away. Ha Ha! the old man laughs, Ha ha ha!

Mat t h e w Rodge rs





Imperfect Atheist

Have you ever wondered if God exists? I have. In my late 20s, I started going to this winter festival called Snow Down in Durango, Colorado. I’d drive out from Los Angeles for the week, stay with my friend, Pete, ski, and make new friends. But the highlight of Snow Down was the team trivia/costume/beer drinking contest. My team was pretty good at trivia. But what we were really good at was dressing up. We would win the costume contest every year. I loved Snow Down. And I would always try to get other people to come with me. The friend I could always count on to show up was Eric. And he was the worst best friend I ever had. He was a big guy with a big mouth and big liver. And terrible in a fight. I’d known him since junior high when it seemed like every couple months, some kid would show up from a different school to kick Eric’s ass. Luckily, only once did I get caught up in a fight that he started. It was in Mexico when we were 18. Eric started a fight with some middle aged tourists. Eric took a tumble off a picnic table, gashed his head open and wound up with an absurd amount of stitches. I was fine, taking off before the federales arrived. Though fight adrenaline is always a bit unsettling.

Eric joins me in Durango. We were having, as expected, a great time. And nothing insane happened, yet. Maybe Eric was maturing. On the final night of Snow Down I was exhausted and kinda happy it was over. The only reason we were out was because our trivia team made it deep into the competition and we won the costume contest dressed up like the runners from Chariots of Fire. It got late and somehow Pete, Eric and I were the last ones out of the bar. We weren’t drunk. Just awake. We said our goodbyes to the owners of the bar before climbing the stairs to exit into the cold. I was desperate for good sleep before I was to hit the road back to Los Angeles the next day. We started walking home, the only people on the street. We made it half a block before a pack of guys rounded a corner. There were eight and they looked mean. They crossed the street towards us, asking what we were doing out so late. It’s pretty clear they had been drinking, possibly on the cocaine, and looking for a fight. Still, all we really had to do to avoid a fight was keep walking and ignore them. But big mouthed, dumb motherfucker Eric couldn’t help himself. He speaks up so that EIGHT dudes now have an excuse to engage with us. They ask us important questions like, “What did you say?” and “You wanna go?” I cut Eric off, stepping in to field these questions. To “What did you say?” I answer, “nothing.” And to the question, “You wanna go?” I say, “No.” I went on to explain that they were out, clearly having a good time. We were having a good time. Why spoil a perfectly good evening with

a fight? I don’t know how or why, but they agreed with me. And just like that, they were headed off in the opposite direction of us. I actually managed to negotiate a peace treaty. But like most peace treaties, they are tenuous. They require commitment from both sides. The other group was down the block when one of them yelled something at us. We could have ignored it, kept walking, and maintained peace. But Eric told them, “Go back to high school.” I just stared at him, thinking, “you big dumb mother fucker.” There was going to be a fight after all. They surrounded Eric and started pushing him. I suppose Pete and I could have run, leaving Eric to defend his dumb self. But we were still dressed up like we were in Chariots of Fire. We would only have been able to run in slow motion. So instead of letting him get killed by eight guys, I inserted myself into the scrum. I haven’t been in tons of fights. But I grew up in a little farming community where we would fist fight and wrestle for the adolescent sport of it. I can handle myself. And I was doing pretty well, basically fighting two guys to a draw. All right, maybe not a draw. They had me down on the sidewalk. But I wasn’t really getting hurt. I suddenly mustered a burst of strength and escaped their grasp. I ran down the street, stopped at the corner and looked back. I saw that I didn’t, in fact, escape. They had let me go. They were running away. The fight was over. Exhaustion set in and I went down to a knee. That’s when I realized I was bleeding. Red was spilling all over me and onto
Ma ri o de la Ve ga


the sidewalk. It was coming from my head. While the two guys were on me, another guy had reached in with a boxcutter and slashed the side of my head, severing my temporal artery. The street was quiet again and I was bleeding to death. It felt like darkness was folding in on me. I thought to myself, “Here it is. This is when people turn to God. What’s your move? You gonna start believing?” I was baptized Catholic. But my father and uncle were atheist communists in Mexico. For a while, I would say I was agnostic. Until one day it occurred to me that agnostic really wasn’t committing to anything. I thought I needed to definitively declare on what side I was going to be. I chose atheism, an easier decision when carefree. But I was dying. After a moment of thought, I said, “Don’t be a pussy. You committed to being an Atheist. When you make a commitment, you stick with it.” I made this decision as the blackness completely surrounded me. A hand was placed on my shoulder and I could hear a woman saying, “come on. Come with me.” The blackness reversed and I looked up to find this woman helping me up and leading me to the ambulance that had just arrived. I was going to survive. In the aftermath of this event, I learned that the city of Durango had just two weeks earlier changed the location of where they dispatched their ambulances. Had it come from the old location, the EMTs would

have arrived 15 to 20 minutes later. I would have bled out. The woman who led me to the ambulance was a cocktail waitress who decided not to have drinks with her co-workers, as was her typical routine, after the bar had closed. If she doesn’t see the fight and call the cops, it’s unclear I make it. And where I was cut was millimeters away from the facial nerve. If that nerve is cut then my face would have forever sagged on one side. In a few months, I came away from this ordeal with really no long term physical damage. And the seven inch scar on the side of my face is barely noticeable. Fate is a predetermined path. A destiny. But who lays out that path? Did God make the city move where they dispatch their ambulances? Did God make the angel of a cocktail waitress leave the bar early? Did God make the blade miss a nerve that would permanently deform my face? Did I basically say “fuck you, God. Cuz I’m not a pussy.”? Was his response to send these quiet, benevolent lightning bolts from Heaven so that I would give him another chance? In the same way that a person who believes in a god will sometimes question their faith, I sometimes question his existence. I’m an imperfect atheist. Some people might call that agnostic. But I won’t. Because I’m not a pussy.

Ma ri o de la Ve ga






T h e Li o n


Thursday mornings I run, and last Thursday I was running like Hermes until I got interrupted. That particular sunrise, I woke up to light falling through my window like angel breath and it looked so nice, I crushed a handful of roaches into a pipe and smoked it. I was part of the horizon, feeling myself, feeling on myself, you know. High masturbation is the way, and before a run, the only way. You work yourself into a zone of anticipation, feeling that orgasm evolve into an organism greater than god, building like the tower of Babel, like the end of the world. That Thursday, arrival was coming quick and strong and I was just starting to shake when I stopped, took my fingers away, got my sneakers. It’s the easiest way to warm up before a run, I’m telling you, and that Thursday, I ran like Jesus. Taking the trail that starts at the end of my block, which runs between houses and blackberry bushes, I started at a real clip. Mostly there were dog walkers, looking as pleased as puppets, and mountain bikers, and old people. We all ignored each other, which was good and fine. I was in it, in my body, feeling like a bit of wild, like a goddamn stag, and

that’s when I heard him. I was looking forward to the end of the run, when I’d go home and arrive like the Flood, when I heard it, heard him. Growling. I was on that part of the path where the blackberry bushes were as thick as pubes, where you could hardly see the yards and the houses behind them. It was a strange spot, gave you the feeling that those bushes were moving in, like a wicked forest. It was at that place on the trail I heard him, heard him growling. A lion. I stood there staring, breathing fast, fixated on the tangle of blackberry the lion was hiding behind. I didn’t know why he was hiding, but he was there, growling like goddamn Zeus, setting my nerves on needlepoint. I stood there, shaking a bit. I kept standing there, waiting, the growling getting louder, wondering what the fuck he was doing there. Considered waving my arms, thought about running away, but I was curious. So I stood there, sweat running down the line of my back, in a zone of anticipation, as the growling intensified, as he came closer and closer, that big cat, hidden by foliage. But by the time that lion had emerged from that blackberry bush, I didn’t give a fuck, I was coming so hard, didn’t know nothing but myself.


Lube Job Part Two
Lauren and I bare our teeth at each other. The crowd roars like a Leviathan. Lube covers our bodies and our faces. We step closer. This ain’t no kiddy pool and Dad’s not around to tell us we can’t. My heart is pounding like Zeus thunder and I am halfway terrified and exhilarated, but my eyes are locked on hers. Us: like sea-dragons, wings outstretched. Lauren’s arms are bare and vulnerable; mine are clad in black spandex, appendages of victory. I could break a ship in half. I feel real good.   Okay. Let me back up. Thirty days ago, I read Joshua Cobos’ Bold Italic story, “Lube Job”, from my email at work. The story was a feature on El Rio’s “Go Deep” lube wrestling show, which goes down every first Thursday. When I read that piece, from my office cubicle at the College and Career Readiness Office, it was like the first day of summer vacation going off inside my head. Hell yes, I thought. I’m going to this lube wrestling. Which was a whole month away, but whatever. I created the Google calendar event, emailed it to my partner and my best friends and my older sister, waited. A “Barbary Coast parlor of lust and delight?” A “Giant inflatable pool full of lube?” I had all the
Kat i e Wh e e le r- Du bi n


patience in the world. Me and Lauren’s participation was not so well planned. Three days before the match, we were walking down 18th St. to Herbivore, Lauren’s new favorite restaurant. The last time we had eaten at Herbivore, we had gotten into a shin-kicking fight leaving the restaurant. “I kinda want to wrestle,” I confided, mid-step. There was a pause. “Do you want to wrestle!?” Lauren said. “Yes!” I shouted this. It didn’t need more talk. It was decided. Lauren and I were going to wrestle in this lesbian sexcapade show, only we weren’t gonna be going at each other like hungry-for-pussy. We were going to go at each other like bad-ass-seals, with sisterly surge, with the weight of years of suppressed sibling aggression (Dad broke us up the minute we ever started to wrestle as kids cuz he didn’t want us to get hurt). Finally, Lauren and I were gonna to go at each other with everything we got. We both knew, deep in our hearts, that I was going to win. That I was going to beat Lauren’s ass down. That at the end of the splashing, twisting, groping, and grunting, it would be me emerging on top. Grinning. Slippery with victory. The night arrived. I picked up Lauren at her new house, helped her decide on the San Francisco 49ers

jersey (I had decided on a black turtleneck leotard), and we were out of there. Got to El Rio way too early, but we weren’t late, and that was most important. Lauren started drinking immediately, but I didn’t because I like to be sober in times of majesty. Slowly, El Rio awoke, our friends and boys showed up, hella cuties, hella cuties. Dottie walked around signing people up to wrestle, including a form agreeing to not sue El Rio if anything happened. She gave us the breakdown of the night, and told us we’d be the first to thumb-wrestle and the second to realwrestle. We didn’t really want to thumb-wrestle, but we sucked it up. The show started, we listened to the crowd outside our small changing room, littered with costumes and backpacks, we went out and thumbwrestled, the crowd was huge, the lights bright, I won, we left the stage. Listened once more in the small changing room to the beast outside, to the splashes, to the oohs and ahhs, as the first pair danced their dance. Then, it was our turn. To wrestle in the big pool. Which is where we are now. And I have never felt so alive. Never felt so in my body. The crowd is roaring like a Leviathan, the lube is octopus spittle, Lauren and I bare our teeth at one another. We step closer. This ain’t no kiddy pool and Dad’s not around to tell us we can’t. My heart is pounding like Zeus thunder and I am halfway terrified and exhilarated, but my eyes are locked on Lauren’s. We circle each other like sea-dragons, wings outstretched. Lauren’s arms are bare and vulnerable;
Kat i e Wh e e le r- Du bi n


mine are clad in black spandex, appendages of victory. I could break an oak in half. I feel real good. You heard me. I am a goddamn tsunami of a wrestler. Ask anyone who’s fought or fucked me. Ask a stranger on the street. I’m tenacious. I have legs like steel pythons and an ass that could knock the moon out of orbit. I can twist my body into startling contortions and I know some aikido as well, so I can reflect someone’s energy back onto themselves like karma. Hear what I’m saying? I’m real good. I’m circling Lauren with my arms outstretched and I know I’m gonna win. We lunge towards each other. Like crocodiles, we thrash. The first few seconds are nice, I’ve cornered Lauren against a bouncy corner of the pool, I’m grabbing her from behind and I’ve got both arms around her stomach. I’m bending over her, I’m laughing. But the lube splashes onto our shoulders and hands and forearms, and I lose most of my ability to grip. Because Lauren’s arms are bare, she’s as slippery as a fetus. Fuck. The next few seconds are a blur, Lauren and I are grappling, and my turtleneck leotard becomes a turtleneck thong, and my booty is shaking. My pubes are everywhere. I’m getting tired real fast. I’m out of shape, I’m really out of shape. I think maybe I should have gotten drunk. Then Lauren, on her knees, flips me to my right, and she’s standing over me to get

some leverage, and I’m yelling at her not to stand up because “it’s dangerous and you could get hurt Lauren”, and then her body is bending over on top of mine, and I’m on my knees, in a half-bridge, using my left arm stretched out behind me to brace myself, and my left elbow makes this sound. This cracking sound. Like a brittle-ass twig snapping. I’ve never heard one of my bones cracking before and it’s a bad, bad sound. I’ve broken my radius into four pieces and snapped my collateral ligament in half, and on Tuesday I’ll go into surgery at UCSF. But it’s Thursday and we’re still ankle-deep in lube. I have no idea what’s just happened, only that it’s bad and I’ve lost. It hasn’t started hurting yet, but I’ve lost. This sea-dragon has fallen into the abyss. The crowd is still roaring. The lights are glaring and Lauren has her arms around my waist, she’s got me up against a corner, she’s grappling me backwards, she’s laughing. She doesn’t know I’m beached and broken. “I heard a crack,” I say. I repeat this over and over. “I heard a crack, I heard a crack.”

Kat i e Wh e e le r- Du bi n


- SET 2 -



B ank Frau d for D u m m i e s
Let’s put it simply: I was fucked. Twenty-seven years old, living an hour outside of Prague, teaching English to three hundred students, most of whose names I didn’t know and would never learn. Living on the dusty edges of a little town, so hard up against the railroad tracks that I could feel my teeth rattle when the train rolled through. I should stop here and offer a definition of potential bank fraud: basically being so broke-ass that you would sell your blood if only you spoke enough Czech to do it, being so desperate that you would hock your sperm if only you could produce some. As it was, I was riding the subway illegally, coasting on the goodwill of the ticking honor system. I was eating homemade Czech potato soup by night, made with the cheapie bottom-barrel produce I found in the basement of the local Tesco. I was wearing shoes with holes in them, and my soles were starting to flap. It wasn’t genteel poverty. It was just plain suck-ass brokeness. And I probably would’ve kept muddling

along in my ever-worsening shoes if something hadn’t happened to wake my ass up. Here it was: My bank account went into the negative. That meant the ATM machine giving me a polite cough, or a straight-out laugh, and then spitting my card right back out at me without a single crown to accompany it. I had a tiny bit of cash – and when I say tiny, we’re talking cup-of-coffee tiny, and make sure it’s not the fancy coffee – and that was it. Woman can’t live on coffee money alone. Let me offer another definition of potential bank fraud: your ass up hard against the wall. I was making $250 U.S. dollars a month. My teaching agreement covered my rent, local transportation and even some meals, but still -- $250 a month. People back home in the Bay Area spent that on organic peanut butter. I was expected to live on it. But as can be said for most of these situations, it was my own fuckup. My own bad judgment. You can trace that back across the ocean and way over to the west edge of the continent, when I hatched my let’slive-overseas plan while sitting in front of my 133 megahertz desktop in my dingy Oakland apartment. It sounded good from there. It sounded good in that way that anything halfway across the world might sound good when you’re bumming on your life. It’s the I’m going to be a different person illusion. But I was

what is colloquially known as a damn fool. I could’ve saved myself a lot of time and trouble if I’d just accepted that fact and called my local temp agency for a mind-numbing local job, but I had goals. I had ambitions. I wanted adventure, and that desire far outweighed any grain of common sense I might’ve found somewhere under my couch cushions. So let’s get back to the point: I was fucked. I sat in my little garage-conversion apartment on the dusty edge of town and pondered my options: beg, borrow, steal. Begging meant humble emails, lots of lines like I’m sorry to ask but. Get out your metaphorical knee pads, because begging meant kneeling and opening your mouth and doing what had to be done. A suckoff in words, so to speak. A real blowjob would be less humiliating. So I scratched begging off of the list. Borrowing. Wasn’t that the same as begging? You had to do one to get the other. That was my experience, at any rate. Anyone who was going to give me money was going to have to be begged. My credit was a sore subject in the best of times. There was no way I was getting money from any sort of institution. I could call up Gary Coleman over at Cash Call and the little midget would tell me to go fuck myself. And those guys would’ve given money to my cat for doing nothing more than yawning.

Alli son Landa


Which left stealing. I was no stranger to the concept. I’d heisted my share of lipsticks when I was a pre-teen and snuck cigarettes out of my mother’s purse a few years later. As an adult I’d lifted money from petty cash jars at work and even, on one memorable occasion, from an envelope being passed around to collect for Girl Scout cookies. I’d stolen from the Girl Scouts! That could qualify me as an expert. I sat up a little straighter in my chair. Stealing. It was proactive. It was an independent manuever. It showed focus and goal-orientation, all of those prized American traits I was supposed to represent here in the smelly crotch pit of Eastern Europe. But how to do it? Execution was never my strong suit. I was the idea girl, the one who could come up with a million different ways to untie the knot. But when it actually came to yanking the damn thing apart, I stepped aside and let someone more proactively American than me do the dirty work. Here, though, there was no one else. Loneliness was a major part of the experience. If I’d fooled myself into thinking I had nothing at home, I knew now how wrong I was. Friends, family, a

common country, a shared language. Hell, I’d be able to call up the bank and do the dirty work over the phone. I’d be able to – That was it. I’d steal directly from the bank itself. I’d steal from out under their noses, behind their backs, all those cliches. I’d steal the way my mother swiped cash from my father’s wallet when he was in the shower, working stealthily with the victim in close proximity. Sometimes the most efficient method, certainly the most adrenaline-laden. Stealing meant lying. I’d known that for as long as my memory stretched back. It meant lying to someone else, to yourself, a denial of the rules in favor of what you wanted or needed. So I was going to lie to the bank. About what? Outside it had begun to snow. As I watched the flakes drift from sky to soil, I thought of a lyric from Shaggy: Say it wasn’t you. Granted, Shaggy was talking about getting laid right in front of his girlfriend, but the principle was correct. Deny the facts that lay right before the bank and see what consequence brought. I was going to challenge each and every recent charge I’d made. At the very least it would get me a temporary credit and at best that credit would be
Alli son Landa


made permanent. After all, I rationalized the way so many deadbeats do, who deserves that money more? Me or the bank? I picked up the phone. I had a land line with no restrictions, meaning I could do things like call the United States in order to defraud Bank of America. As I dialed, I wondered which call center they’d connect me to. Did it really matter? Didn’t they all look and sound the same? As long as I got what I wanted, I didn’t really care. Except for some odd reason, I did. I wanted to be connected to somewhere in the Bay Area. I wanted to talk to someone who was home – because home, as Paul Simon once sung, is where I wanted to be. Someone named Carol answered my call. She had a Southern accent. I assumed she was somewhere in Atlanta. I could handle being in Atlanta. Anywhere but here, this snowy and dusty country that didn’t seem to understand the use of vowels in words. In Czech, the letter Z is a word. I am not shitting you. “Carol, I’m a little concerned,” I said. I’d read somewhere that if you used a person’s name, it made you seem a little more familiar to them, a little more sympathetic. I needed all the sympathy I could get. I spun a story about losing my debit card back in Oakland. I spun it quite well, I thought. My story

had something to do with a dropped purse on an AC Transit bus. I started to believe my lie. That’s when you know you’re lying well. “Okay,” she said. “Let’s check the charges from the last few weeks.” She read them off one by one: places with names like Kavarna Evropa and U Rudolfinium. It took her a while to pronounce these names, as if in some way they seemed to argue with her tongue. And I disputed every single one. My heart was not racing as I did this. My palms were not sweaty. My father once told me that I lie as easily as I breathe, and lying to the bank was just about as simple. They gave me a temporary credit. It became permanent. It added up to more than $500. That would be more than enough to live on until my next paycheck, a nice cushion when I needed it. I hung up the phone in elation but a slight prickle of worry: What if I got caught? Two words: I didn’t.

Alli son Landa




T h ril l - B e n t

I notice a sound that hasn’t been there before: a soprano screech that melts its way through the rough windwhip and earthquakey tremors of the ride— softly at first, then louder and higher until I realize we are slowing way down. I think I know what the sound is: it’s the sound of the trim brakes seizing the wheels underneath us. On newer roller coasters, the brakes along the track are computerized, programmed to grab the wheels should the train exceed normal operating speeds for whatever reason. In that case, the train would gradually slow until it reached a safer designated speed, which would probably go unnoticed by all but the most discerning rider. But here on the seventy-year-old Coney Island Cyclone, what we hear is more like a parrot tantrum that grows louder and wilder until we crawl, finally, to a shrieking stop at the top of the world, clinging to the narrow track, buffeted by cold air on all sides “What the hell?” asks Ralph, his head wobbling on his shoulders like a dashboard dog. Something has gone terribly wrong. We are perched at the top of the world, clinging to the narrow track, buffeted by cold air on all sides. After a couple of moments of stunned silence in the blistering wind, Ralph and

I crane around to commiserate with the only other couple on the train. They are in the back car, and it’s hard to see them because we’ve already banked a turn that they have yet to come through. We are the head of the humpbacked dragon, and they are the tail: behind, below, flung off to the side. I practically dislocate my hip in the process of learning that it is not really possible to swivel under a locked lapbar restraint. “HEY!” I yell as loud as I can, cranking my upper torso outside of the car. I squint to see a wild-haired woman and a man who looks like he’s trying to comfort her with there-there words we’re too far away to make out. They are huddled together in a tidy lump, except for her hair, which flies like a big ripped flag toward Manhattan. “They can’t hear us,” says Ralph, calm as a moose. We search the ground for someone who looks like they might care. It’s hard to tell what’s going on down there, through the giant maze of peeling white latticework and loopy tracks. A few tiny people are walking around, but none seem to be stopping. “WHAT’S GOING ON?” I holler. But my voice wafts away on the wind like a errant napkin gliding over the clown-go-round at Astroland and drifting down over the pastel-painted Wonder Wheel and the faded freak show murals, landing daintily near Nathan’s Hot Dogs on the other side of the park.

“This is crazy,” says Ralph. He calls down to the

station agent, “Hell-ooooo!” in an operatic voice I’ve never heard him use before. I try not to be insulted (I didn’t call correctly?), but Ralph’s voice gets lost in the cold, dead atmosphere just like mine did. “Maybe the carny who runs the ride had a heart attack and died right on the brake lever!” I suggest. Ralph laughs. "How can you laugh? Maybe there’s a killer loose in the park, and they figure we’ll be safer up here.” I start giggling too. "Maybe one of those huge Coney Island rats chewed through a wire, and everything automatically shut down. Maybe they finally got Bin Laden and we’re having a national moment of silence. Maybe we’re being punk’d." I seriously consider this option, searching the dark area underneath our feet for an implanted secret camera. All I find is a wad of fossilized chewing gum. "Maybe this is something they do every day at 5:34 and we’re the only ones who don’t know about it.” I chew my lip and examine the midway spread out like a postcard below. “Maybe we’re dead. We died but purgatory’s not ready for us yet because of a paperwork jam.” I pound the sides of the train with my fists, unbalancing our car and letting out hollow little booms.

Jan Ri ch man






Keep Water in Jars




Before cell phones, my car would break down once a week, always at 3a.m., on dark California highways, where from a middle of nowhere pay phone I’d call my father who repeatedly found me during the night, drove me towards the city he wished I didn’t live in, in silence. Always call me if you have an emergency he would say. No matter where you are, I will find my way to you. You should move, if there is ever something, unthinkable, if the shit hits the fan, no one will be allowed on the bridges, you and your partner will be isolated, do you have an emergency plan? When you were little I didn’t protect you enough, he tells me, I wish I would have held you more. He never told me about the nightmare the reoccurring dream he had of men cracking my skull open at night in the Tenderloin near my place    till years later.


At a bar my friend Danny tells me I was there the night he was infected. While we were out, he was hit on by a man who wouldn’t look me in the eyes, don’t go with him, I told him. I can take care of myself Danny said call me if you change your mind I begged. I will go out and I will find you. The man raped him later that night. When it was over Danny walked in circles around Union Square waiting for the Bart trains to start running again and take him home. At one point, I just wanted to have enough money to settle all my bills and debts, so that I could die. Danny holds my enormous useless hands tighter and tighter. But now I’m here, with you, healthy and alive! I am going to live for a long time. It is not your fault, what happened to me I’m grateful for our friendship Danny says. The waitress brings us more whiskey, outside in the Castro, men sing carols. Our tears flow freely.   Though he has moved half way across the country to share a tiny studio apartment with me, my bed this life, my partner, doesn’t like it when I call him my partner. says its too permanent, too intense. Our bodies hold

each other at night the same way I hope they will hold each other when we are old. I stare at our only window, can’t help but picture it shattering when it comes, raining glass on us in our sleep, our old building crumbling on top of us, still wrapped in our sheets. We have no emergency plan. I dream my partner and I are at different places when everything breaks, I see myself searching the city for days trying to find him. Bud, my oldest gay friend used to give me advice on life now he says this world is going to hell, head for the hills. Every weekend he takes supplies to a cabin in the woods that no one knows about. He hands me an envelope with a map inside tells me to open it when it comes so I can find my way to him. Learn to grow and store your own food! He says, when everything collapses you will have to know how to use a gun. Keep water in jars, keep matches and maps. Most importantly make sure to stock up on flashlights, Bud says. One day, you may need to feel safe, as you walk
Ba ru ch P orras- He rnande z


through the dark, searching for the people who will hold you in the pitch of midnight.



g e t t h is
“So there’s this guy dreaming, right?” Right. “And he’s standing at this bus stop, kicking a crushed can or a rock or something between his feet. It’s late, drizzling, the bus won’t come. If a cab were to pass by, he’d hail it, but there aren’t any cabs.” Never in the rain, you can never find a cab. “He’s killing time by kicking this rock or this stick or this thing between his feet, and he wonders how he ended up there, age thirty, at like what feels like one a.m. It’s a weeknight, probably Wednesday, he’s been waiting for ages. Like, this shouldn’t be a rhetorical question. How. Did. He. End. Up. There. But it’s suddenly and totally inexplicable how he got there or where he’s going. Most people, at most times, could explain that, where to and where from, at least in a simple way. Worse, who he is as a person, that is, the bit of consciousness that is aware of waiting for the bus, it has become ambiguous. He’s no longer certain of his own identity. All that can be confirmed is an unpleasant wait beneath the dignity of his peers.” That, and the rain.

“Right, so the rain is making this strand-of-beads curtain around the buzzing streetlight, and he’s still kicking this thing between his feet. It rattles on the pavement. It skitters between his shoes. And that’s when he looks down at the rock or the stick. He’s more than a little shocked to see that it’s a gun he’s been kicking.” A gun? “A gun, like a handgun. He reaches down, picks it up. The weight is perhaps more than what he expected, but then he expected a gun to be surprisingly heavy.” Aren’t they always? “And although he cannot remove the clip – and truth be told, he’s not even sure what a clip is – he is sure that the gun is loaded. He right then decides to kill himself, because what the hell, right?” Well, they say that if in a dream… “But that’s stupid, right? You and I know about as much about the truth of dream dying as does this guy know clips. Anyway, he puts the gun to his head. It’s cold and wet from the rain. The round kiss of the barrel is refreshing on his temple. He tests the force of his finger against the trigger. But he gets worried. What if it’s not a dream? He doesn’t feel stoned, but what if earlier he’d taken a drug that squeegee-cleans memory while leaving a gloss of dreaminess? He doesn’t feel injured, but what if earlier that night he’d given and received violence, which would explain

the gun and the amnesia? I cannot take that risk, he thinks, so he puts the gun inside his jacket pocket and continues to wait.” Probably prudent. “This goes on for what feels like hours. The drizzle continues and still no cabs. He’s certain that he is not dreaming, because he doesn’t recall ever feeling boredom in a dream. It becomes as surprising that the bus has not arrived as it is surprising that the sun has not risen. He’s pacing the bus stop. He’s bouncing on his toes. The weight of the gun jostles in his pocket. Feeling bored, he grows curious to learn more about the gun. Maybe he’ll figure out the clip and determine whether it’s loaded. He reaches into his pocket and what he pulls out, instead of a gun, is a handful of baby carrots.” The sensible snack? “Exactly. The bus pulls up. Wet, rounded, orange, he pays the driver with the carrots. He pushes newspaper off of a seat. He leans his head against the window. The bus slowly continues its route. It’s going to be a long ride. He wishes he’d shot himself when he had the gun. It is then that he wakes up furiously, furiously screaming. ‘You idiot,’ he shouts, because in his dreams he finds new methods for failure.”

Mat t P i ne





("It Might Rain")
It might rain it does that sometimes, when it does they make umbrellas & rubber jackets & shoes & indoor places to keep you dry. & lightning might strike it does that usually just tall buildings or golfers with expensive clubs but still it might in the Siberia rocks fall from outer space fall to the ground making sonic booms and breaking windows


they do that space rocks do

but if you’re not in the Siberia (& honestly; how many people who aren’t Siberian are!) there’s no reason to worry too much about that but if you’re worried and all that know that I have a meteor-proof umbrella made of karma & good thoughts (& a regular umbrella!) & I made it for you to carry with you just in case you’re in the Siberia & I have some lightning-proof shoes for you that are guaranteed (except when golfing!) and they’re made of rubber so they’ll keep out the rain for you

if you want them to!

and all of these things that I made from my own sense of clever design is intended to help you look up because when you do you sparkle and sparkling is what you’re meant to do. Birds sing in the trees because, hell, who wouldn’t love flying without the seat belts and aluminum tubes & Spiders trace out patterns catching dreams and flies in equal measure sleeping waiting because honestly
Ch a rli e Ge t t e r


if you’re a born string maker how can you not crochet? ¿me comprende? Me? I attach boards to other boards and string together thoughts I pass off as profound and you sparkle and if you reflect the color of the sun over the Costa Rican coast at the end of the day or the lights from San Francisco when we’re so far away (ok then, just in the east bay!) just look up and all the rain will fall like a million stars

coming to earth like we’re in the Siberia

where all the houses are well insulated

and coming home through winter’s

cold and silver outside can open up to an indoor warm and gold

& a tofurkey will glow in the oven and we’ll need no light but from the fire in the hearth and need nothing but the giant (faux) bear rug on the hardwood floor & night can fall & a star can fall as well & I’ll make a wish

Ch a rli e Ge t t e r




W o r d P r o b le ms: # 5
Light travels at a rate of 186,282 miles/second. Please use this information to solve the following: a. Your love was like a star. b. It had burned out a long time ago. c. I was still charting my course by it. Based on your answers to a, b, and c, is the following true: Your love was like a star. It had burned out a long time ago. But I was still charting my course by it.


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- april 15, 2013 -